Double-A Bowie’s Caleb Joseph began this year as the Baysox’s third catcher and as a player that was expected to get most of his at-bats between designated hitter, first base and left field.
But Joseph’s hot start at the plate had the Orioles re-evaluating a few things. Joseph is back catching almost full time for now and expected to get the bulk of the catcher innings at Bowie beginning immediately.
After going 2-for-5 with a pair of doubles while catching last night, the 26-year-old Joseph is batting .316 with 10 doubles, five homers, 21 RBIs, a .645 slugging percentage and a .998 OPS. He has compiled all those numbers in 19 games.
He leads the Eastern League in slugging and extra-base hits, is tied for first in doubles and is second in homers and RBIs. He is having a breakout offensive season to this point.
“Caleb Joseph can swing the bat and he’s proving that he is an offensive player,” O’s director of player development Brian Graham said of the decision to get Joseph back behind the plate. “When you have a guy that can swing and drive in runs like Joseph, if he can catch at the level to play in the big leagues you have a strong commodity. So I think it is important he catch more and we’ll evaluate exactly where he ends up.
“Caleb has always been a good catcher. He blocks balls and calls a good game and pitchers like throwing to him. His arm strength is average and his throwing accuracy has always been good. It is just a matter of performance.”
Last season, Joseph threw out 41.3 percent of attempting base stealer with Bowie. But Graham said this move was simply forced by Joseph’s strong start at the bat.
“Absolutely. It is a development situation,” Graham said. “In Double-A baseball, you are still in a development situation. The fact we have a guy that is proving he can hit, if he proves he can catch at the same level you have a pretty good player.”
But it all leads to this question: Was Joseph’s offense helped by the fact that he no longer was catching? Will this move impact that?
Graham and the Orioles are going to find out.
“It makes sense that squatting down, blocking balls and the grind you go through as a catcher is a grind on the body,” Graham said. “Offensively, not catching you have a chance to be fresher.”
Meanwhile, Single-A Frederick third baseman Nicky Delmonico, who has not played since April 18 after suffering a concussion, could return soon.
“He is under the guidelines of major league baseball’s concussion policy,” Graham said. “He has to score a certain level on the concussion test. All the players get a base line test at spring training. I believe he is taking the test (today) and he has to score a certain level to get cleared to play. His doctor’s appointment went well but he still has to pass this test.”
Delmonico was off to a good start at the plate. Over 11 games, he is batting .325 with two homers, nine RBIs and a 1.071 OPS.
Single-A Delmarva’s Mychal Givens, converting this year from infielder to pitcher, was recently shut down for several days but is getting closer to getting back in a game soon. Givens is 1-0 with an ERA of 1.50 over four games and six innings for the Shorebirds. He last pitched on April 16.
“He was a little tender so we backed him off and put him on a throwing program,” Graham said. “Now he is perfectly fine and healthy, he’s thrown a bullpen and is building his way back up to an appearance on the mound. He had some tenderness in his flexor mass area.
“This whole year is going to be a process for him as a conversion guy. You have to be patient with him and careful with a conversion guy.”
In other news, Graham said pitcher Matt Hobgood continues to throw the ball well and touched 93 (mph) on the radar gun during his appearance for Delmarva on Friday.
Bowie outfielder John Ruettiger has missed a few games sick with a flu bug that has hampered several players on the Baysox team. Bowie infielder Zelous Wheeler was activated off the DL Saturday and infielder Cale Iorg went on the DL with a tender shoulder. He’ll get shut down for a few days.
Jonathan Schoop recently missed two days dealing with flu symptoms. But he returned to play for the Tides last night and went 1-for-3 to extend a hitting streak to nine games. Schoop was batting just .128 when the streak started but after going 11-for-32 (.344) he has raised his overall average to .225 over 20 games.
Delmarva right-hander Mark Blackmar had some shoulder tenderness but is fine now and scheduled to start for the Shorebirds today. He is 1-0 with a 5.40 ERA in two starts, the last of which came April 11.
Frederick catcher Michael Ohlman begins a throwing program today. He has been out since April 15 and is on the Keys disabled list with a right shoulder injury. Ohlman was injured while batting when he moved to get out of the way of a pitch and fell to the ground, injuring his throwing shoulder.
Must-see TV?: Here’s a plug. I’ll be appearing on “O’s Xtra” on MASN2 HD with Jim Hunter this afternoon at 3:30 p.m. to discuss the O’s minor leagues. Hope you have a chance to tune in.